In August 2016, while on vacation in Minnesota, Gary and Nina Scott, along with their two adult daughters and their husbands, visited an escape room for the first time.
One son-in-law was skeptical, Nina recalled.
“He said he’d sit in the car, but we told him he had to go in,” she said. “It turned out he was really into it. We all had a great time.”
So much so that the topic of escape rooms dominated the conversation during the car ride back to Iowa. What if the family pooled their talents to open an escape room back in their hometown of Mount Vernon?
“On an eight-hour car ride with creative people, we talked about some really crazy ideas,” said Chris Moore, the Scotts’ other son-in-law, who had been playing the online version of escape games for years before to visiting his first live action room that day.
By the time they reached home, they had a list of six or seven concepts for their own escape room business. They just needed a location.
“We wanted to rent because we didn’t want to take on the commitment of a building,” Nina Scott said. “But then we thought about whether a lease would allow us to do what we wanted to do.”
The mayor of nearby Lisbon suggested they look at a building on Main Street of that town that was for sale. Most recently used as a garage, the building once had been the Lisbon Fire Station.
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“It was barely a building,” Nina said. “The walls were crumbling away. It had part of a floor and no insulation or utilities.”
They nonetheless purchased the building in December 2016 and, over the course of the next several months, completely renovated it.
They had their first escape room for the Fantastic Escape ready in September and a second in November.
One room, Captain Nemo’s Wrath, features “techy Victorian submarine steampunk” décor, said Moore, who previously worked as a set designer for Orlando theme parks. The other room, Cold War Check In, is designed in a sleek midcentury modern look with many nostalgic props, including an old slide projector and vintage board games.
The rooms and all the puzzles were designed by Chris and his wife, Kira, along with the Scotts, with other family members lending their talents.
With backgrounds and skills in areas such as art, set design and painting, graphic design, architecture, electrical engineering and computer engineering as well as shopping in thrift stores, the family collaborated to create an immersive, theatrical experience — including stage lighting and sound effects.
Nina and Chris said the family is continuing to work down the list of concepts they came up with on the car ride home from vacation. In June, they plan to plan to replace one of the two rooms with a new story.
l Know a business in operation for less than a year that would make a good “Ground Floor”? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
At a Glance
l Owners: Gary and Nina Scott and Chris and Kira Moore
l Business: The Fantastic Escape
l Address: 141 E. Main St., Lisbon
l Phone: (319) 535-2583
l Email: email@example.com
l Website: http://fantasticescape.com